Call for flu jabs during pregnancy
Waikato woman Katie van de Pas never thought something as common as the flu could leave her fighting for her life.
The 29-year-old contracted swine flu (H1N1) in July last year at 34 weeks pregnant and was in an induced coma for two weeks.
‘‘I had a bad cough so went into [a medical centre] with a temperature,’’ she said.
‘‘The doctor took my temp and it was a bit high, 39 degrees, and said I was getting the flu, so he sent me home and gave me some codeine to manage the pain.
‘‘A few days later I started coughing up blood and was [eventually] coughing so much I thought I broke a rib.’’
Van de Pas’ oxygen levels were so low that an ambulance had to be called, and she was admitted to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition.
‘‘I was talking to the ambulance lady on the way to the hospital and they made me priority one but I didn’t realise why,’’ she said.
‘‘They X-rayed my chest and it was all white, it was full of phlegm.’’
The day after she was admitted to hospital, baby Dinah was born via emergency caesarean.
The new mother was sedated and had to be taken to the Auckland Hospital isolation ward when it was suspected she had contracted swine flu.
The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women be the highest priority in seasonal influenza vaccination programmes.
Waikato District Health Board medical officer of health Felicity Dumble stressed the importance of being vaccinated every year to ensure protection from new strains of the flu.
‘‘There’s been a delay in getting the vaccine in New Zealand this year because of the experience they’ve had in the Northern Hemisphere,’’ she said.
‘‘Because of their influenza season, we’ve modified our vaccine to make sure we’ve got protection against three specific strains we expect to be common this season.’’
The flu season is most prevalent in May and June and Dumble said the vaccine was free for pregnant women and provided protection to both the mother and the baby.
‘‘Women when they’re pregnant are particularly vulnerable to influenza and that’s because of changes to their immune system – they’ve got less defence,’’ Dumble said.
The funded vaccine is available until July 31.
Katie van de Pas contracted swine flu during the end stages of her pregnancy and was in a coma for two weeks. Daughter Dinah and she are lucky to be alive.